It’s amazing/ridiculous how every little piece of minutia in the sports world gets analyzed backwards, forwards, sideways, and slantways, and longways, and backways, and any other ways that you can think of. The Internet is a wonderful tool for sports fans to not only instantly learn what’s going on in a constant state of breaking news, but also to voice their own opinions for the whole world to see. But in a growing number of cases, these opinions and conversations simply outweigh the gravity of the issues. We analyze every little detail until all the fun has been sucked out of the events themselves. Will Jose Reyes get booed or cheered when he returns to New York? Will he only be cheered in his first at-bat, or in every at-bat? What if he gets a hit? Do you like the idea of a video tribute? Does it take away from the event? Should Reyes tip his cap to the fans? If he doesn’t, should you boo?
I am so sick of the debating over all this nonsense. Here’s the bottom line- one of the all-time great Mets is now on a rival, but he is making his first appearance back in Flushing. If you want to boo, then boo. If you want to cheer, then stand up and clap. If you don’t like the video tribute, then go grab a Shake Shack burger after the National Anthem. Who cares? This video will be over in 60 seconds, and it will never be played again.
All I know is I am going to this game, I am wearing my black Reyes jersey that I bought before Game 7 in 2006, and I will stand up and give Jose a huge ovation for his first at-bat. Number 7 had some injury problems throughout his 9 seasons in New York, but he still played 1050 games for the orange and blue and gave 100% in every single one of them. He is the best shortstop in Mets history, and the best leadoff hitter in Mets history. He is the best base stealer, the best run scorer, and perhaps the most exciting player the team has ever had.
Jose Reyes left this offseason and went to one of the team’s biggest rivals in Miami, so he is now the enemy. But this is his first game back, and tonight is the fans’ only chance to show him how much he meant to us. Many suspected his infamous (literal) walk-off bunt last September would be his final appearance as a Met, but we weren’t totally sure and as a result he did not get the appropriate send off. Now we know for a fact- Jose Reyes is gone. It’s official. So some people will boo, though I expect most will cheer Tuesday night in Queens. But at the end of the day I really don’t care. I just know what I will be doing in the stands (besides freezing my ass off with a beer in my hands). I will definitely stand up and loudly applaud him one more time, for bringing me happiness and excitement during a Mets era filled with mostly anger and depression.
Instead of debating stupid topics that would have never been talking points in the pre-Internet days, like video tributes or how many decibels of respect to give a returning player, I choose to reflect back on the time we had with the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball. Here are my top 5 Jose Reyes moments as a member of the New York Mets:
5) First “Grand” Homerun- 6/15/03
Rookie Jose Bernabe Reyes had just turned 20 years old, and I was excited to see what this kid was all about. He was such a highly touted prospect, but I had seen “can’t miss” guys from the Mets system fall on their face before (see: Generation K), so I was reserving judgment. But this day game in Anaheim was the first eye-opener of many for me, as Jose smacked his first career home run in grand fashion. His 4-run shot to left helped the Mets win 8-0. He became the youngest player in baseball to hit a grand slam since 1964, and it was the first moment I realized THIS Mets prospect might actually be the real deal.
4) Leading off Game 6 With a Bang- 10/18/06
The Mets were facing elimination at Shea Stadium in the 2006 NLCS, and were one loss away from a huge upset loss to St. Louis (Yes I know, they lost in 7. No need to remind me). But after John Maine escaped the first inning of Game 6 and kept the Cards off the board, Jose Reyes decided to get the Amazins going right away in the bottom half. With the crowd already buzzing, Jose jacked one over the wall to lead off the game for the Metsies and send the 56,000-plus into a frenzy. The Mets led the whole way after that, and forced Game 7 with a 4-2 win. It was the last playoff win the Mets have had to this date, and Reyes was the hero.
3) Reyes’ Real Last Hurrah With New York- 9/27/11
Everyone will remember Jose Reyes’ last at-bat with the Mets as a bunt single that culminated with the shortstop taking himself out of the game in the first inning, preserving a batting title while leaving the fans disappointed. But the night before was the last time I personally saw Reyes play, and I think I picked the right game to attend. I sat in the best seats I have ever had for a Mets game, parked in the first row behind the on-deck circle, right next to the Mets dugout. Every time Jose took his spot in front of me, practicing his swings and readying for his at-bat, I begged him to stay, told him I loved him, and chanted his name. 99 times out of 100 when an athlete gets these calls from fans he ignores them and pretends he is deaf. But to Jose’s credit he interacted with me and my surrounding fanatics. He smiled, nodded, and even posed for pictures with us!
But don’t think for a second this fraternization took away from his focus at the plate. On the contrary, Reyes went 3 for 6, and blasted his final 2 home runs as a Met. It’s the way I will always remember sending Jose off, and when he hit home plate for the final time in orange and blue he appropriately received on more chorus of “Jose, Jose, Jose Jose.” I will forever cherish watching Reyes not just because he was a great player, but because he always had fun on the field AND with the fans. It’s an extra special reason why he was extra special.
2) Reyes Runs Himself to the Front of the Mets Record Books- 7/20/08, 9/10/08
If there are two exciting baseball plays that Reyes is most remembered for as a Met, they are the stolen base and the triple. Jose Reyes has been the franchise’s all-time best at both of those feats for many years, but it wasn’t until 2008 that they became official. In July he broke Mookie Wilson’s triple record by taking Edinson Volquez to the right center field gap at Shea Stadium for his 63rd career three-bagger.
Two months later the inevitable stolen base crown was his as well when he swiped his 282nd base in a night game against the Nationals. Mookie previously held that mark as well, but just like the triples record this one was meant for Reyes. He leaves the Mets still as the leader in both categories, now with 99 triples and 370 stolen bases.
1) The 2006 NL East Division Clincher- 9/18/06
This picture below will forever epitomize the best feeling I have ever had involving Jose Reyes. No, Reyes did not play hero on the particular night the Mets clinched their only NL East title since I have been a fan. But 2006 was his best season, and he was a pivotal part of that amazing core. I was at Shea Stadium that night against the Marlins, and it was probably the proudest I have ever been to be a Mets fan. At the time I thought it was just the beginning of what would be a string of post-season berths with Reyes and Wright as the cornerstones of the team. Let’s be honest- we all did. Even Yankees and Phillies fans thought it. It just didn’t work out the way we hoped. Things rarely do in life. As it turns out that night was the pinnacle of happiness surrounding Jose’s time with the Mets. It never got any better, but without number 7 things would have somehow been worse. It might be hard to believe, but it’s true.
Tonight Jose Reyes plays his first game at Citi Field since September. And though his stance will look the same, his intentions will be 100% different. Now he will be trying to BEAT the Mets. So I will take a minute out of my life to cheer for Jose Reyes, one of my all-time favorite athletes, one more time. It’s the least I can give the guy. But after his first at-bat I have to somehow move on. Jose Reyes is gone, and he probably will never come back. It’s a sad reality, and one we all have to come to grips with after tonight.